>> good morning welcome to mosaic. i am ron swisher last month we celebrated black history month as we have done for a number of years here on mosaic and celebrate women's history month here in march we are plaid to have dr. nixon. >> dash pleased to have dr. nixon. >> thank you for coming. >> you bet. >> your ministry is known throughout the bay area tell us about your background. >> actually i come from the hills of new hampshire. and i grew up conservative baptist and for people that don't know what i tell them really in order to truly understand conservative baptist we used to think the southern back tests were liberal.
that is how i -- baptists were liberal. that is how i grew up rural town 500 people went to a local school there and then high school and grew up playing outdoors, having a great time with nature and with my friends and but you know, it shapes you where you are from so we had really two very conservative newspapers, not hardly any div.ty, and being -- diversity and being in a con is vair tiff baptist church didn't -- conservative baptist church didn't see women doing a whole lot other than being with children. >> interesting how you got the call like that. >> some how i innate witted and internalized and that love brought me forward and the
other thing is when i was first born i nearly died my mother had had a conversion when she was pregnant with me so she was really filled with fear. >> that is quite a story. >> yes so i was about to die as an infant she had the pastor come she got down on her knees and said god if you save this child, just like hanna and samuel i will give her to you so here i am. >> that is what happened. >> that is what happened. >> quite a background so then you ended up at that point you were the congregational church of san mateo now but what was the journey from there before you reached that? >> oh, it is just i guess the best way to describe it i have gone through the back door of everything my whole life. it is interesting people will hear me speak or something and make up these stories about me about how i must have come to this and that none of them are nearly as interesting as what
really happened. i think i would call it i had a series of conversions so i had an amazing experience i went to a very conservative seminary who didn't even allow women to be ordained in my preaching class ron they would say that was a great sermon for a woman. and i never heard another woman preach until i was 25. >> wow. >> so um, but i kept having these openings these conversions, to more people in my life, to hearing their stories, and to coming to my own experience of faith and to say now wait a minute just because someone is telling me that, that is not my experience of spirit. so i spent time in india and was very struck by the poverty there, and thought you know, the conservative message that i was hearing wasn't jiving with my experience in india i began
to read about liberation theology. >> but the constant conversions helped open that. >> absolutely. absolutely. and i believe that god's spirit is everywhere so i would pay attention and it would just widen my soul and widen my experience and then my notions of god and scripture and of christ and of faith began to be shaped dramatically in new ways. >> i saw on your website, or bio on you that you put a lot of emphasis on doing justice and loving mercy and kindness and walking humbly before god, that suits your vision and purpose and mission. >> absolutely. i say every week at my former church and this church as the benediction god has no hands but your hands no feet but your feet no faith but your faith. >> amen to that. >> it is the way god's work gets done in the world is through us. >> that is great we will come
back to that as we have a great start please join us reverend dr. nixon at san mateo united church of christ congregational church yes. did you make sure we're not missing anything in the first aid kit? yup. did you go through the plan with the kids again? yes. announcer: the more you prepare today, the more you'll be able to reduce the devastating effects of a tornado, an earthquake, a power outage, or any other disaster. get a kit, make a plan, be informed. visit ready.gov.
>> i hope you have been with us on this women's history month. now you have gone from conservative baptist church you went to the seminary how did you end up with mcc is it? metropolitan community church. >> it is they are all over the united states and other parts of the world even. primarily a ministry by and with the gay lesbian, trans gendered population. when i came to new york to san francisco i came out that was a
journey in and of itself. we could spend an hour on that but we won't. i started going to metropolitan community church in san francisco and to the evening service i was preaching at presbyterian churches in the morning i would preach they would say that is fantastic we have an opening would you apply and i would say do you want an out, open lesbian and they would say well, we will get back to you. and i would go and worship at night and that has been my tradition forever in new york i went to a presbyterian church in the morning and would go to brooklyn gospel tabernacle at night so i was going to mcc and started to get to know the congregation and the pastor jim at that time and then i started helping out because that was in you know, that was prior to protease inhibitors so probably 25, to 50% of the congregation was hiv positive so we were
losing 4 and 5 people every week and you could never -- >> enormous. >> just unbelievable. so then i ended up being the pastor there,. >> you were there for 10 years. >> yes over 10 years. >> over 10 years we were talking earlier how difficult it is to leave a church after that many years a major decision to make. >> absolutely but i will say that when we talked about liberation theology before, there is a real crucible of my learning my ongoing conversion, happened in south africa as i really gotlib ration theology in my bones as i worked in saweto and fellowshipped with black south africans and saw not only the struggle but saw it from a whole new perspective i went there to work against apartheid but saw it from a new perspective and that training ground, ron, prepared me also
for the aids years the height of the aids years in the castro before meds were vailable that really you know, made now what is a chronic illness. >> yes. incredible work there. and then from there you made the decision. let's go back for a moment to you teach preaching. >> i do. >> and for a woman, that is great because i know a lot of the women are preachers throughout the country teaching and run into some wonderful preachers that has been a great experience how did that open up for you? >> i was teaching preaching to some folks in the metropolitan community churches we do incoming clergy training i got invited to teach at psr i preached there a number of times and i tried it and absolutely loved it it has become a real passion of mine i think it is something i will end up doing in various forms the rest of my life i believe
that preaching can be a venue of real transformation in society the first thing i tell people i don't believe in mortal sin but if there is one it is to be boring. >> some of the great teachers have said that too. >> absolutely. >> that is fantastic. the home littics courses you offer what does that contain? >> we talk about the history of preaching theology of preaching ethics of preaching and then the real practice of preaching and i really focus a lot on the actual doing of the preaching, and what it means and why we do it and how we do it and how we each do it in our own way but the rigour of preaching the preaching life and i work on delivery with a lot of my students many of them just say and write the most brilliant things that are so touching but
they are not saying it in a way that is engaging so i work with them on how to truly be engaging and also for it to be part of them. that it is their self-coming forward and preaching, not something that they are reading off a paper. >> right right delivery and content. >> both. >> both are very important. >> now you are in san mateo what is that like for you? >> a huge transition for me to go from urban to suburban i would say really the biggest transition and cultures that go with that. and it has taken me awhile you know how it is ron you have been a pastor longer than i have. >> i have, 40 years. >> it just takes time to bond with the people and become their pastor and that has happened in the last year and a half i have been there three and a half years now i am having a great time, it is a terrific community we have been growing a lot there is a lot of momentum and vibrancy, it is a lot of fun to be part of.
>> now you are a trustee at psr i am too so there is a fellow in the church that is an active psr trustee. >> right giuliani lips. >> he is -- julian, phillips. >> he is an amazing man. >> i imagine it has helped with the transition. >> absolutely. there has been a lot of new folks coming the church is high volunteerism, they are very committed to becoming a center for progressive christianity on the peninsula. >> okay okay. now you said you have been there three and a half years now. >> yes. >> you don't have a bishop like we do you see your tenure there for a long time or how do you see that? >> i do. i try to not set my course too far ahead because seems like god always has other plans and intentions but it is a fantastic ministry, i am enjoying it thoroughly, so at
welcome back to mosaic. we have been talking to reverend dr. penny who is pastor at united church of christ congregational church in san mateo. why ucc connected with that. >> why did i move from mcc to ucc? >> right. >> actually i hold my ministerial standing in both denominations and am also part of the fellowship.
>> right. >> and that is because i believe the realm of god is everywhere it is true in my body to be part of all these organizations and after i left mcc san francisco in 2006, end of 2006, i wasn't sure what i would do next so i began to pray and journal and just take some time off s i looked back i was doing writing every morning and i looked back after 3 months just threw my journal pages and i could see what i was saying almost every other day i miss pastoring. so i said okay well, there we go. so i began the look and we needed to stay in the bay area, begin to look for churches that might be open and i saw the foundation church of san mateo. i went to their website saw their guiding principles and said to myself that is a church i could pastor. i didn't tell anybody for a month and then i called up the head of the ucc in this region and said i would like to have a
chat and it is the only church i applied for and they had done a national search going on for a year and i sent them a letter, and i began corresponding and went through a whole process, many months, and i ended up being a candidate. >> now you chose to live in alameda with your family tell us about that choice. >> our chosen family is here, one week -- well, let me tell you this, we were trying to get our child out of zimbabwe we have an adopted daughter from zimbabwe and we were trying to get the visa to bring her we.com it finally may 7th. we already bought the tickets in faith. that could be a 2 hour segment. >> another conversion. >> having a kid is the biggest conversion right there. so on may 7th her visa came through on may 15th my father passed away and i went back to
bury him. >> in new hampshire. >> wow. >> and on may 29th, san mateo called and said you are our candidate will you accept the candidacy. may 30th we left for zimbabwe and then we got back, then we got back with her, it was my 50th birthday, i preached at river side the next week and the week after that i candidated at san mateo. so it was -- i barely remember that time. >> we were living in the bay area, and all her aunties are chosen family, were in the bay area and we knew that we really needed that family structure for her, and especially coming from the communal culture she comes from, and so yeah, we chose to live in alameda we found a great school there for
her and you know, the commute is not bad and it also helps me when i am at work be really there when i am at home, be there. >> is your partner working? >> yes, she teaches english as a second language at lay knee college. >> as she been a teach era long time too? >> yes. >> did you meet in new hampshire? >> no, we met out here in san francisco and then actually, we took a trip to zimbabwe and south africa for several weeks in february 06 right after i made a decision that i would be leaving mcc san francisco, and we met this child and her name is mercy. >> mercy. >> and you mentioned earlier that my kind of life motto is to do justice, love, mercy and walk humbly with god and who would have known literally loving mercy is a major part of my life because she came with that name and she is --
>> how old is she now? >> seven. >> how is they adapting to this area? >> unbelievably. she -- since day one we had a bigger adjustment than she did she just loved everything from day one, the food, i always tell her the story you know how kids love to hear stories about themselves i tell her that when she was first here she ate everything on her plate and everything on my plate so that i lost all this weight when she was first here but she is just an incredible spirit ron. it is like i really feel my partner and i have been together 19 years i feel like we are meant to just help guide her destiny that is all. because she already had a destiny before we ever met her and she has been part of our destiny and we are just putting as much goodness and values and faith because i don't know what she is going to do but it is going to be something.
>> this being examples of women's history month by just living and so forth do you see doors opening for herbie doing that? >> absolutely, for her as an african child, to be able to look on the tv and she went with me when i voted for president obama, and i took her and i had -- she said i want the help her her hand was on -- so her hand was on my hand when we made that check in the box. >> historic move. >> yes. >> i was privileged enough to go to inauguration. to be out there with 2 million people was the most joyous experience i have had and no one knocked anyone in the head it was just joy. >> right. >> that is great background experience you are sharing. we are going to come back in the last segment and wrap up. it has been great talking to you. >> thank you. >> please join us again with penny in our last segment
ask what you can do for your country. >> it has been a joy to host this program this morning dealing with women's history month and having reverend penny with us. we have been talking about a lot of your personal life and where you are living and we touched on alameda, why alameda again? >> just because it is so close to our children's family we are part of a great school there and we fell in love with the island we just fell in love with it. it is urban but it is very small town and you know you can walk everywhere, you know people. i just really like it. >> everyone is surprised i grew up there and spent my first 20 years there and then i went as a park director helped me get through college i did the four
years i know what you are talking about it has grown since the 60s. it is quite huge. >> that is great so you do commute and that has worked out very much so. >> mm-hmm. >> now let's go back to something we had not touched on you as a campus minister at one time tell us about that. >> i worked at columbia university and also, that is why i went to south africa also i was part of the international fellowship of evangelical students. they have chapters all over the world i went to do some leadership development and help the staff out and what was then the black christian student movement in south africa. >> what years are you talking about? >> 90. >> right. >> and i was at columbia from 84 to 90 at that time was with varsity christian fellowship very conservative but we were really on the edge, we did a lot of social justice, activities and we just did
amazing things and really grew that fellowship i had a wonderful time there, and probably 75% of the fellowship was korean american at that point and you know, really formative for myself and all those students and i took a multi racial group to south africa in 89 we had some experiences there, because that was right before apartheid was dismantled. >> that's right. >> it was very tense there. transformation fall for all of us. >> your life has demonstrated women's history month but are there certain women in your life that inspired you, that stand out that you might have been inspiration for you? >> well, when i was real young it was amelia ear hart. i dressed up like her when i was six and did a monologue at a school play and i will never forget it. my name is amelia earhart. >> i would have to say ron my
mother was a great inspiration to me and even though she had a lot of struggles in her life neither of my parents graduated from high school, very working class, she exhibited a love of life her name was joy may she rest in peace, taught me about joy taught me about hospitality and love and some of my most deeply held values come from her. >> the story of you almost dying and her committing you to the lord at that point. >> that's right. >> and was she living when you came out? >> yes. yeah she had a little tough time for awhile but she got through it and she got through it. she did and she did. and she died at 67 so really too young. >> yeah. >> it is a great sadness she didn't get to meet my daughter but i tell my daughter stories about her but just women
throughout history there is not one role model and you know i remember this may sound like such detail but you know how life is some times defined by these moments and i remember probably 10 years ago, watching the u.s. women's soccer team, a bunch of women, yes, and even the commercial and a commercial came on, i am in a room with 30 women watching it. it was little girls playing soccer saying i can be on the team and i looked around and 20 of us were in tears because we looked at that commercial and said if we had seen that, when we were young, what -- how different would we have been. just like when i saw the marriages at city hall in 2004, i looked up and i thought from a young age i knew who i was if i had seen that when i was a kid, how different would my life have been. and yet i am grateful that my daughter is now in a world that
is so much more open and so much accessible to all different kinds of people. >> thank you penny. i am just enthralled listening to you tell your story. >> thank you. >> it is great coming here this morning to hear you thanks for being with us. >> god bless. >> blessings to your ministry. >> thank you. >> dr. hugh burrows will be with us next month our producer and co-host i am ron swisher ,,,,,,,,,,